December 7, 2022
PHILADELPHIA — An investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations’ Philadelphia field office — commonly called HSI Philadelphia — landed a former Middlesex County, New Jersey sheriff’s deputy in federal prison for 15 years, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for producing, distributing and possessing child pornography. Joshua Padilla, 37, of Eatontown, New Jersey, was also ordered to pay $15,300 in special assessments when he received the lengthy prison sentence Friday.
The HSI-led investigation resulted in multiple child exploitation convictions for Padilla, who was charged with those federal offenses in July 2019. He was also charged with multiple related state felonies in February 2019. Padilla pleaded guilty to one count each of producing, distributing and possessing child pornography in December 2021.
The investigation revealed that Padilla, who was a sheriff’s deputy, drove a 17-year-old girl to Northampton County, Pennsylvania, and recorded himself having unlawful sexual contact with her; he later uploaded some of that video to a social media platform.
“Rescuing the victims of exploitation will always be one of HSI’s most sacred responsibilities, especially those in vulnerable populations such as minor children. The fact that this crime occurred at the hands of a sworn law enforcement officer makes it that much more egregious,” said HSI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker. “HSI and our partners in the Pennsylvania State Police will relentlessly pursue child predators, especially those in positions of trust and authority. I am very proud of the HSI special agents, PSP troopers, and assistant U.S. attorneys that brought this investigation to a conclusion and ultimately served justice for the victim.”
The investigation was led by HSI Philadelphia with significant assistance from federal, state and local law-enforcement partners.
“While child exploitation cases are always horrendous, the conduct in this case is particularly offensive because of Padilla’s position of authority and trust in the community as a law enforcement officer,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero. “We stand ready with our federal, state and local partners to identify and prosecute those who would prey upon minor children — no matter who they are.”
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
“As a member of law enforcement, Padilla was trusted and sworn to protect his community. He lost that trust when he violated a minor and put children’s safety at risk,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “I am thankful for the hard work of my office and the U.S. attorney’s office to hold Padilla accountable for his crimes and get a sexually violent predator off the streets. This sentencing is a reminder that being in a position of public trust does not put you above the law.”
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
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